Libby’s neighbour (and despite the age difference, closest friend) in Juniper Street, Woodhaven. Originally from England, she came to the USA for a touring holiday in 1967 and forgot to go home. Most of her past is a mystery, and what isn’t a mystery is chequered. Her only child, Sara, moved to England twenty years ago but has returned only once. Another mystery, and one to be addressed another time.
Libby’s first impression: She wore a 1970s maxi dress and short hennaed hair with too much grey root showing through – Biba meets Miss Havisham — and looked as if she should have been carrying a selection of stuffed plastic shopping bags.
Melissa Harvey Connor
Libby and Oliver’s landlady, and another long-term Woodhaven resident. (Woodhaven is like the Hotel California: You can check out any time you like but you can never leave.)
Melissa hasn’t changed much since her days on the high school cheerleading team — not inwardly, anyway. She still thinks she’s the hot piece at the school dance, and likes to prove it by collecting the scalps of the various husbands who rent her house. Currently married to Jeffrey Connor – a former tenant. His first wife wasn’t keen on the idea of a ménage à trois with the landlady, so she took herself and the children back to their home England.
Libby’s verdict: I know her type. It doesn’t matter what nationality you are, there is always a Melissa to hand. She’s the queen bee, the one who must be top dog, who must have the upper hand in a conversation. If she doesn’t, she will terminate the conversation with you and continue it with your boyfriend or husband instead.
Owner of Little Darlings Nursery School. Taker of bribes from well-off or high profile parents at the expense of parents who merely pay Patsy’s extortionate school fees. Helicopter mom supreme to Roman and Saxon.
In their high school days, was fellow-Melissa Harvey Connor’s sidekick and ego-masseuse. Some things never change.
Chair of Woodhaven Elementary’s PTA and yummy-mummy extraordinaire.
Encourages her little darlings’ self-esteem to saturation point. Libby’s son Jack had a preschool crush on Jodee’s daughter, Crystal, culminating in a Valentine’s exchange of gifts snaffled from other family members. Jodee was very put out that Crystal had to return Jack’s gift, a decorative wooden box belonging to Jack’s sister Beth, and was convinced Crystal would be mentally scarred as a result. (It doesn’t occur to Jodee that she’s done most of the scarring herself already.)
And she’s a friend of Melissa Harvey Connor. Wouldn’t you know it?
Another dark horse. Like Maggie, she’s moved in and out of Woodhaven all her life. Unlike Melissa, she bears no resemblance to her high school self. Looking at her dyed black hair, belly-button piercing and ankle tattoo, you’d never know that Anna is the daughter of an evangelical, fire-and-brimstone preacher. Or maybe — if you’re more perceptive — you’d look twice at her and guess.
Married to Frankie Gianni, joint owner of the Maxwell Plum Italian restaurant on Main Street, Woodhaven.
Libby’s first impression: She was a thin woman, possibly in her mid- to late thirties. Her hair, a very obviously dyed black, jaw-length bob, had a bright red streak down one side and a purple one on the other. Skinny black jeans – Sandra would have died for them, but this woman carried the look off so much better than my mother-in-law ever could – and a black T-shirt that said Coexist on the front, using different religious symbols to spell out the word. Black Doc Martens. Heavy eyeliner, framing dark eyes…Woodhaven didn’t breed exotic creatures like this.
Married to Anna, son of Carla and Sal, younger brother of Max. Has a passion for red sports cars, especially Italian ones. Used to be a bit of a lad, but stepped up his game once he inherited the title of Gianni Senior. Makes a sublime lobster ravioli.
Poor Carla. She’s a shadow of her former, vital self. Once upon a time, when Ronald Reagan was in the White House and a more famous Frankie was telling everyone to Relax, Carla was Queen of Woodhaven and Empress of Gianni’s. Gianni’s — as Maxwell Plum used to be known — was the place to be seen. Then a new highway was built, a town bylaw was repealed — the one that dictated “No Chain Restaurants in Woodhaven” — and suddenly everyone started frequenting Ruby Tuesday’s and Chili’s on their Saturday nights.
Was this the cause of Carla’s mental illness? No. Not directly — although it played a part.
But that’s another story too.
Donna was Libby and Oliver’s realtor when they were buying their first house in the USA. It’s just as well the house was in the USA because Donna’s awareness of the rest of the globe is somewhat lacking. She and Libby nearly came to blows when Libby was trying to register Jack for kindergarten, and Donna couldn’t comprehend why anyone wouldn’t have a US birth certificate. Even someone born in Milton Keynes to British parents.
She’s harmless enough, though. Even if she does talk like Minnie Mouse.